On the outside I look like your average 28-year-old, if every 28 year old had unicorn hair that is. Inside my multi coloured head is a different story. I have anxiety, sometimes it lies in the background, sometimes it rears its ugly head but it is always there waiting to pounce on the smallest, and sometimes invisible, insecurity.
Running has always been a way of releasing stress for me. Strangely enough a way of me putting myself in awkward situations out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to the limits of my anxiety. I hate crowds but love starting pens, go figure?
Why am I so anxious? Truthfully I don’t really know, I know I over think. Not like, I think about things a few times a day. More to the point where I plan out every minute of every day and every potential thing that could happen. If I’m going anywhere I need an itinerary and everything must stick to those timings. If it doesn’t my IBS flares up, the joys of the physical symptoms and outcomes of anxiety. Anxiety is also a trigger for my epilepsy so if I get too anxious I sometimes have a seizure. All of this because of overthinking you might say? But this isn’t just overthinking, this is your mind moving a thousand times a minute from one situation to the next trying to control and understand every potential outcome. It’s oh so very tiring. Believe me.
So I run, I run to clear my head. To have 45 minutes to myself, to listen to birds sing. My favourite run this year was in February, an 8 miler along the canal in the snow. No one else around. Just me and the sound of my breathing. In and out, in and out. In 1,2,3 out 1,2,3.
I’m not going to lie and say running solves all my anxiety problems. It doesn’t. Recently my anxiety reached such levels that I couldn’t leave the house alone. I couldn’t shower or cook without my husband being in the house. So no. I’m not going to lie and say running is the cure. It is however a tool. It is a tool that empowers us and allows us to do things our anxious minds tell us we can’t. To pump the endorphins around our body so we feel like we’re on cloud 9. It allows hope and a light in what otherwise can be very dark days.
Yesterday I did the Great Bristol 10K. I finished in 1 hour 41 minutes. Rubbish time you might think. Doesn’t matter. I finished it. A week before I’d had a seizure due to anxiety and injured both my knees because of this I couldn’t run but myself and a friend decided to still take part so we walked the whole thing. We were the last two people in the entire race for the first 2k but it didn’t matter because we were doing it and we finished. At the end I got my medal and my goody bag just like everybody else and there was the shard of light, letting me know I could do this.
Today I saw a mental health nurse for the first time for an assessment. I’ve been referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which I have my first session of on Thursday. Then on Saturday I’m going to Rhodes with some ladies from our running club ‘Too Fat to Run?’ for a week long health and happiness retreat. I have my journey planned out, the itinerary for the week printed, outfits planned, medication organised. I know it’s not going to be easy and it’s way outside of my comfort zone but I wouldn’t even be thinking of it if I hadn’t started running.
In short, yes I have anxiety and currently unfortunately the majority of the time it controls me and my thoughts but with the help of running and exercise in general I am learning to control it. Sometimes people think health is just the physical but believe me it’s not, it’s also what’s going on in that multi coloured head of mine.